If you believe auction house notes, there were only twenty-five Chronometro Gondolo Chronographo watches produced for Gondolo & Labouriau; most being one-minute chronographs and six with 30-minute registers. They were advertised as “useful for those who need to make observations based on calculations of fractions of seconds, as happens to Doctors and Engineers, Navy and Merchant Marine Officers, Sportsmen, etc.” The chronographs were not offered through Relojoaria Gondolo’s buyer’s clubs.
It was thought that A. Campos & Cia. had no equivalent with the Chronomètre Royal. Indeed, it has been declared that there has never been a Chronomètre Royal, pocket or wrist watch, with complications. With equal parts anticipation and excitement, I’d like to confront this myth in the story of the Chronomètre Royal.
Having found that Campos responded to the challenge of the Chronometro Gondolo much earlier than previously believed, we shouldn’t be too surprised they would have reacted to the Gondolo Chronographo with equal alacrity and explored the viability of offering their own chronograph. We can assume it wasn’t successful as this version with 30-minute counter appears to be the only known example.
The archives at Vacheron Constantin confirm the watch was completed in 1910. I am exceedingly fortunate this piece was thoroughly documented in the past so there are other fascinating details to share.
The 18 karat four-part bassine-style case measures 52 mm and was supplied by Eggly of Geneva in 1910. The watch was completed shortly thereafter and sold to Campos that same year.
Its 19-ligne pin-set, stem-winding ebauche was provided by the chronograph specialist Marc Goy-Baud and finished by V&C in 1906. I have been informed by those more expert in these devices that the mechanism is a semi-instantaneous type; the minute counter advances over 2 seconds with a final jump as the central seconds hand reaches 60. Activation and reset is achieve with the push a the button in the crown.
Verifying the CHRONOMETRE inscription on the cuvette remains a work-in-progress. The Observatoire de Genève began testing chronographs following a change in the rules for 1909, under a new classification of Pièces compliquées. Vacheron & Constantin were very enthusiastic for the opportunity and submitted numerous chronographs in the proceeding years.
Once everyone is back in their offices, with access to the records, an answer should be forthcoming. If confirmed, it would be the cherry on an already delicious cake!
This concludes my trilogy on the Chronométre Royal in Brazil. With the precedent for complications now established, wouldn’t it be amazing if the wizards at Plan-les-Ouates provided us with a new Chronométre Royal Chronographe?